WASHINGTON (AFP) — Washington Redskins star defender Sean Taylor died early Tuesday morning after being shot Monday at his home in Miami, the National Football League club announced Tuesday.
The 24-year-old safety died in a Florida hospital where he underwent nearly seven hours of emergency surgery Monday to repair a severed femoral artery, the team announced.
"This is the worst imaginable tragedy," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean's family."
Police said Taylor was struck in the leg by a bullet that hit the femoral artery, causing a severe blood loss.
"He did not make it through the night," Taylor's lawyer Richard Sharpstein told the Washington Post, calling the death "a ridiculous unnecessary tragedy."
At Redskins Park, a small bouquet of white flowers had been placed at the main entrance and flags were lowered to half-staff. Fans also huddled near Taylor's parking spot.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will honour Taylor's memory at all games this weekend.
Taylor's No. 21 will be painted in a grass parking area leading into Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia. The team also announced No. 21 will be painted in front of the Redskins' Hall of Fame store.
Taylor had faced off-field legal issues several times, including a 2004 drunken driving arrest and the dropping of felony assault charges from a 2005 off-season incident involving firearms.
Sharpstein told CNN that the shooting took place in Taylor's home. An intruder or intruders fired two shots and one hit Taylor. The bleeding "could not really be stopped, only curbed a bit," he said.
Neither Taylor's fiancee nor their 18-month-old daughter, both at home when the attack took place, was harmed physically in what is believed to be the second break-in there within eight days.
"This was a deliberate attack," Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato told the Post.
Taylor was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital after his fiancee made an emergency call.
"He never regained consciousness," Sharpstein told CNN. "He was unconscious when the fire rescue people arrived. It's a senseless tragic death."
Taylor and his fiancee had been in the bedroom when a disturbance was heard in the living room, Sharpstein said.
"(He) tried to get a small machete that he keeps under the bed to defend himself but the door was burst into," Sharpstein told CNN, adding that Taylor's fiancee hid under the covers until the assailants had fled.
The shooting stunned Taylor's Redskins' teammates, who had been optimistic after reports Taylor had made facial expressions Monday night, his first signs of conscious behaviour following concerns of brain damage.
"Seemed like a lot of hope after he responded to the doctor's command, but he lost of a lot of blood," Taylor family friend Donald Walker told the Post.
Eight days before the fatal shooting, an intruder pried open a window and went through drawers and a safe in the home and also left a knife on a bed, according to police.
That break-in prompted Taylor to ask for time away from team meetings to handle matters relating to the incident, which was granted by Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
"For all of us here, we're obviously in shock," Gibbs had said Monday. "I know I can't put it in words."
Taylor was the fifth pick of the 2004 NFL Draft and had a strong 2007 season with 42 tackles and a team-high five interceptions until a November 11 knee injury forced him to the sidelines the past two games.
"How can you deal with it? It's hard," teammate Clinton Portis said. "All we can think about is if he had been with us on the flight to Tampa, if he was at the game with us, then he would not have been in that situation."
Taylor, who had been ejected from a playoff game for spitting on an opponent, pleaded no contest last year to two misdemeanor charges in connection with the 2005 incident and was in the final days of 18 months on probation.
He had originally faced three felony counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and two battery misdemeanors after a confrontation over an all-terrain vehicle. Police said gunshots had been fired into the vehicle.
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